Trump Tried To Execute Voting Machines Seizure Three Times
Two weeks ago, the details of an executive order from Donald Trump that would have ordered the military to seize voting machines as a step toward reversing the outcome of the 2020 election came to light. It’s now clear that Trump also tried, and failed, to get either the Justice Department or Department of Homeland Security to take control of the machines.
Trump’s open confession on Sunday that he was trying to get Mike Pence to “overturn the election” on Jan. 6 may seem to be a complete confession of the scheme to install himself as an unelected ruler, but the revelations aren’t over. As The New York Times reports, that draft order was just one attempt to take voting machines away from states and counties, positioning Trump to repeat false claims about how those machines operate and lies about incorrect results.
This included a scheme—pushed by Trump, and carried out by Rudy Giuliani—in which they attempted to get the Department of Homeland Security to swoop down on select states and take the machines. And that effort followed a meeting between Trump and then-Attorney General William Barr, in which Barr refused to use the Justice Department to support Trump’s scheme.
These failures were part of a weeks-long effort to seize the evidence that the election had not been plagued by fraud, take machines away from objective observers, and put them under lock and key where Trump’s team could make any claims they wanted. And it’s now clear these plans went beyond papers being passed around the White House, or angry meetings in the Oval Office. There was an attempt to put these plans in motion.
In the end, Trump didn’t “walk away peacefully,” he went down kicking, screaming, and scheming to the ugly end.
As events have been pieced together at this point, Trump and his associates conducted a multi-part scheme intended to 1) create the false impression that there had been election fraud, 2) send false slates of electors to the National Archives to bolster that claim, 3) use Republicans in Congress to both maximize the pressure on Mike Pence and lend supports to claims of fraud, 4) declare Trump the winner by excluding results in states that Biden won, 5) backup this scheme through a series of maneuvers including polling of the states congressional delegations where Republicans held a one-state advantage, and 6) announce that Trump would remain in office pending another election at some point in the future.
But there is another action: the seizure of voting machines so that Trump could expand on claims that systems were connected to the internet, were subject to being hacked, or under the control of foreign governments. It’s now clear that this was more than a proposal. Trump tried to make it happen at least three times.
To that end, Trump first held a meeting with then-Attorney General William Barr “in mid- to late-November” in which he tried to get the Justice Department to take control of the voting machines. Trump informed Barr that, “his lawyers had told him” that taking and holding the machines was within the power of the DOJ. But Barr—who had actually looked into the allegations of issues with the machines—told Trump there was “no probable cause” that justified seizing the machines.
Barr stepped down from his role as attorney general before the end of 2020. It’s unclear to what extent his late resignation was intended to protect him from being caught up in the investigation of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. What is clear is that Barr did not come to the public and explain the threat represented by Trump’s actions, so he remains deeply complicit.
With the DOJ at least temporarily off the table, Trump turned to the Pentagon. The idea of using the military to impound machines appears to have originated with retired Army colonel Phil Waldron. It was Waldron who prepared the PowerPoint presentation that was given to at least 100 Republican members of Congress in the days before Jan. 6.
During a Dec. 18 Oval Office meeting with Flynn and Powell, Trump apparently was given, or already had, the draft executive order instructing the military to take control of voting machines. That order was predicated on long-debunked claims about issues with results in Antrim County, MI. At the same meeting, Flynn also proposed that Trump could conduct a do-over election under the supervision of the military. However, this scheme was ultimately “rejected.”
That rejection appears to have taken the form of, not pushback from the Pentagon, but a breakdown among Trump’s coup plotters. Trump was apparently taken with the idea as put forward by Flynn and Powell, but Giuliani was not. Despite Powell’s claims of everyone from China to Spain to Venezuela to Germany being involved in some form of election fraud, the Antrim County claims mentioned in the draft order offered no explicit evidence of foreign interference. Giuliani was convinced they needed to make a claim about foreign interference if they were going to use the military.
It’s unclear whether Giuliani made this argument out of some concern for the facts—a concern he never demonstrated in public—or out of a growing antipathy toward Powell. Three weeks earlier, Giuliani had made the claim that Powell was not part of Trump’s legal team after a particularly contentious, and embarrassing, press event.
With the DOJ and military attempts halted, Trump instructed Giuliani to see if Homeland Security could be used to seize the voting machines. Giuliani called the acting deputy secretary at the DHS and passed along Trump’s instructions to go out there and get those machines. However, the official told Giuliani that he lacked the authority to take the action Trump wanted.
All of these accounts show the same thing: Trump didn’t “consider” having to seize voting machines; Trump tried to seize the voting machines. This wasn’t something that ended with papers passed around a desk and a decision not to go forward. On each occasion, Trump agreed with the scheme to take control of machines, ballots, and supporting materials. With the equipment and results in hand, he could have issued whatever lies he wanted about what his team “found.”
Donald Trump schemed openly to overthrow democracy and install himself as an authoritarian ruler. His party—from bottom to top—is complicit in this scheme which is, without qualification, the greatest threat the United States has ever faced. Why isn’t the media treating it that way?
Article reprinted with permission from Daily Kos